Apple Music: How does it measure up so far?

July 8, 2015

It is apparent the introduction of Apple Music has not been all plain sailing.

The world’s leading brand narrowly averted a public relations disaster after Taylor Swift questioned how exactly artists would be compensated during the free trial period in a determined letter made very public on social media.

Initial reviews haven also highlighted that to a large extent Apple Music is disappointingly similar to market rivals like Spotify, Rhapsody, Tidal and others, both in terms of delivery and usability. For the tech giant, so used to being streets ahead of its competitors, such feedback might even be construed as a loss.

That being said, there is still no doubt that simply by virtue of being an Apple offering the platform will capture a significant market share. The best way to establish how Apple Music will fare against Spotify, the current world leader and recognised “granddaddy” of streaming music services, is to see where it differs. Figures released by Spotify two days after the Apple Music launch on 8 June showed that the former enjoyed the support of 20 million paying subscribers and 75 million active users. While that is a considerable feat by anyone’s reckoning, it should be remembered these numbers took seven years achieve.

For Apple, the audience numbers are more a question of “when” than “if”; Apple Music will automatically be offered to every iPhone and iPad with the iOS 8.4 update, giving millions the chance to sign up easily without the hassle of seeking out a third-party platform. Where it does fall short, however, is in the details that Spotify has managed to address and refine over time. For example, Spotify offers a commercial-supported option if users want to stream music for free, whereas Apple does not at this juncture.

Spotify has also become a past-master in the development of features which have lured audiences. One need only think of Spotify Running, which matches music to a jogger’s pace, and Spotify Touch, which allows users to preview 30 seconds of a track by long-pressing it, to get an idea of how it has come to understand its core fan base.

One of the bigger concerns about Apple Music has been the length of its playlists, which is surprising given how much time and effort the company commits to this sphere of its operations. Commentators have noted that they have struggled to find playlists longer than 20 songs, and that these are repeated barely an hour into the listening period. Spotify boasts lists of more than 100 songs that can keep users entertained for well over three hours at a time.

Most importantly, in terms of price, Apple Music has wisely chosen not to challenge the industry standard, and is on a par with its rivals. In South Africa, subscription has been set at R59.99 for individual membership and R89.99 for a family plan (up to six people).

It’s obviously still early days for Apple Music, and inevitably the platform will begin to reflect the needs of its users as teething problems are identified and addressed. It may however find that competing in the streaming domain may not easy, which has almost always been the case with past ventures.

*This article first appeared on MWEB.

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